The vinyl industry is a mess — and this British company wants to fix it


Vinyl has undergone one hell of a renaissance. In 2006, the format was effectively dead. But since then? Vinyl records have experienced year-on-year growth, with the US alone clocking 41.7m units sold in 2021, a 45-fold increase from 16 years ago. While in Germany, sales went from 0.3m in 2006, to 4.5m last year.

Those numbers are somewhat misleading though — and their exuberance hides a darker story. Vinyl sales are strong, but the industry itself is at breaking point. From rising costs to a huge printing backlog, from mainstream label dominance to environmental concerns, and from material shortages to outdated equipment, records are being held together by a shoestring.

But — and there’s always a “but” in these pieces —wherever there’s a problem, there’s a potential to fix it. And, of course, to make some money along the way. In this instance, that mantle is being taken up by elasticStage.

Who or what is elasticStage?

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Well, elasticStage is a British company co-founded by two Austrians: Steve Rhodes and Werner Freistaetter. Each of them have worked in the music industry as recording artists and behind the boards. The pair teamed up six years ago to create a machine they claim is the world’s first “on-demand” manufacturer of vinyl.

This isn’t Freistaetter’s first foray into this field of one-off record production either, as he founded Vinyl Carvers in 2002, a company that allows people to create a single vinyl disc. Rhodes and Freistaetter started elasticStage to take this idea further. While Vinyl Carvers targets DJs and people who want one or two songs on a disc, elasticStage wants to alter the entire sector.

It claims to have created a technology — which currently has a patent pending — that can not only be profitable from producing a whole record, but is also endlessly scalable. For all intents and purposes, they believe they’ve found the magic bullet that can transform vinyl. To find more out, I spoke with Rhodes, elasticStage’s CEO.

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